Trailer microclimate during commercial transportation of feeder cattle and relationship to indicators of cattle welfare.

Goldhawk, C.A., Crowe, T.G., Janzen, E., Gonzalez, L., Kastelic, J.P., Pajor, E., and Schwartzkopf-Genswein, K.S.G. (2014). "Trailer microclimate during commercial transportation of feeder cattle and relationship to indicators of cattle welfare.", Journal of Animal Science, 92(11), pp. 5155-5165. doi : 10.2527/jas.2014-7964  Access to full text


Nineteen loads of commercial feeder cattle (BW 376 ± 39 kg, mean ± SD) transported for 18 ± 4.5 h in summer and winter seasons were used to collect data on internal temperature and humidity conditions in the deck and belly compartment of pot-bellied trailers and their relationship with shrink, cortisol, and morbidity. Measurements of temperature or humidity at ceiling or animal level did not vary with transportation factors. Temperature and humidity ratio was greater at animal-level than ambient conditions during nonhighway travel and stationary periods (P < 0.01). During the 3 time periods evaluated within journeys, there was a larger difference between animal-level and ambient conditions during the winter than during the summer (P < 0.01); however, this difference was not associated with other transport factors (P > 0.05). Evening loads (1700 and 2100 h) experienced more shrink in the summer than in the winter (11.2 ± 0.5 vs. 9.0 ± 0.5% of BW; P = 0.03). A 1°C increase in difference between average animal-level temperature in transit and the mean ambient temperature during the 10 d before transport was associated with a 0.11 ± 0.03% of BW increase in shrink (P < 0.01) and 0.006 ± 0.002 ng/mL increase in posttransport cortisol concentration (P = 0.05). Animal-level temperature–humidity index (THI) events (consecutive observations of THI greater than 78°F) were more likely to last for longer than 1 h when the trailer was stationary vs. traveling (mean = 1.8, confidence level 95% = 1.33, 2.52). During THI events at animal level, the disagreement with ambient temperature regarding THI classification was lower when the vehicle was traveling vs. stationary (95.5 ± 0.01% vs. 99.7 ± 0.002% of THI event in disagreement; P < 0.01) and was greatest in events less than 1 h (99.8 ± 0.0% vs. 91.7 ± 0.03% of THI event in disagreement; P < 0.01). The average magnitude of the difference during these events was 11.4 ± 7.6°F and was not affected by transportation factors (P > 0.05). Despite association between indicators of calf welfare and microclimate, all cattle arrived in good condition and there was 0.96% treatment rate within the first 30 d after arrival. Management and auditing decisions related to transportation of feeder cattle should consider the relationship between animal-level and ambient conditions and conditions before transportation. Under the commercial conditions of the current study, the transportation process did not appear to cause distress according to the dimensions of animal welfare that were assessed.

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